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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Loopworm startup turns 50 tonnes food waste a day into animal feeds, pet foods

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Loopworm, a Bengaluru-based biotechnology firm, processes 50 tonnes of food waste each day to provide high-quality feed for Black Soldier Fly (BSF) worms. Insect protein is utilized as a basic ingredient in animal feeds and pet meals.

Almost every spare minute of Ankit Alok Bagaria and Abhi Gawri’s time at IIT-Roorkee was spent figuring out how food waste may be beneficial.

Ankit explains, “We came upon the concept of an insect-based product sector, which was already established in the Western world. Insects are developed to feed on food waste/reject, resulting in a high concentration of protein, lipids, and nutrients, which are then extracted and used as an alternative protein in animal feed and pet food, enzymes, concentrates, and so on.”

Loopworm was founded in 2019 on the idea of converting food waste into a useful resource and reintroducing it into the food chain, often known as the ‘food loop.’

This Bengaluru-based biotechnology firm has created a flagship vertical and indoor-based smart insect breeding, manufacturing, and processing technology to manufacture long-term Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae-based proteins and lipids.

Food waste from processing companies or manufacturers is turned into high-quality feedstock (through thermal, chemical, and biological pre-treatment) before being fed to these insects.

These insects’ stored nutritious protein and fat are subsequently removed and used in various goods.

Loopworm’s R&D phase began immediately after graduating from college. Surprisingly, the team began their experiments with insects and food waste from their leased abode, keeping everything under wraps.

Mealworms, crickets, grasshoppers, and a variety of other “bugs” were tested until Ankit and Abhi settled on BSF Larvae as the ideal answer.

The black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) are well-known for their ability to compost garbage or transform waste into animal feed.

By the end of 2019, the business had relocated its headquarters to Bengaluru, where it was easier to obtain and grow the tropical bug.

Loopworm went through a phase of hit and trial (proof of concept) for around 17-18 months. The creators had turned a modest cowshed into their insect farming facility and used a Bioinnovation Centre for product development and quality assurance.

“It’s like precision farming,” Ankit explains.

The team has been working on establishing outcomes and is now considering commercializing its goods through collaboration with animal feed and pet food producers. It also has a use case in the cosmetic business (East Asian market), bio-materials, stimulants, and enzymes, which the firm intends to investigate more in the future.

Thai enterprises, such as Oricga, have created a range of Entomocosmetic goods (novel skincare products produced from insect oils and chitosan) that utilise protein oil from agricultural waste-fed BSF Larvae in various skincare products. The protein oil is naturally rich in critical omega fatty acids such as 3, 6, and 9 as well as antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.

Animal feed makers currently employ a range of protein sources as raw materials, such as wild marine fishes, sardines (fish meal concentrate), soymeal (poultry), and so on.

What would work in Loopworm’s favor is their provision of an alternate sustainable and high-quality protein source/raw material, providing clients with an extra option in addition to the standard line of raw materials.

“There are around 350 animal feed and 30 pet food producers who get basic components that are relatively comparable. They are always exploring for new or alternative and high-quality protein sources to improve their goods. We are experimenting with food waste and insects in feed formulation “Ankit explains.

The business is in discussions with seven pet food and five animal feed suppliers about supplying their goods and is conducting commercial testing.

Loopworm hopes to construct a decentralized protein production business model in which the four stages of production—breeding and rearing, feedstock preparation, poly housing, and product development (bio labs)—are outsourced to progressive farmers and micro-entrepreneurs.

He says, “We aim for a revenue run rate of $1.5 million by the end of FY2022-23, and we also hope to study export markets, including the United States and Europe.”

Loopworm has also diverted more than 60 tonnes of food waste/byproducts from landfills to date.

Ankit says, Loopworm is looking to handle 20 tonnes of food waste every day over the course of a year.

He concludes, “In the long term, we hope to become one of India’s and the world’s largest alternative protein firms, generating 300 tonnes of protein by 2023 while utilizing 7000 tonnes of food by-products. We see a future in which insect-based food is considered as a “superfood” for widespread ingestion by humans and animals alike.”

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